Review: Kitty Jospé at Before Your Quiet Eyes on 9/11/2019

Gone was the poetic dirge from Kitty Jospé’s refreshing reading Wednesday night before a standing room only gathering at the Just Poets Featured Reader series at the Before Your Quiet Eyes bookstore. Jospé passionately and joyously delivered in her animated optimistic fashion, hands shooting to the ceiling, fingers counting syllables, the mountainous up and down range of her attention-getting voice. Good?  Very good. A key to good stuff is originality (and passion) and Jospé always delivers: a poem that transforms the word “green” for “greed” ; a poem that takes an unwanted piano and speaks of the homeless (“free doesn’t matter when things are broke…”); a poem about rock climbing in red high heels…. And Jospé, a Memorial Art Gallery docent, is an excellent ekphrastic poet who can take the reader/listener through a painting better than the artist as she did with her poem on Edward Hopper’s 1939 “New York Movie.” Simply beautiful.  

The open mic portion brought 17 readers to the front: Maril Nowak, Andy Hariraj (first time reader who shows potential for sure); Jim Jordan, Janet Nemetz, Gracen Lynch, Breven Bell, Charles Banks, Claudia Stanek reading a Donna Marbach poem, Laura Klinkon, Gene Stelzig, Dream, David Michael Nixon, Bart White, Jennifer Maloney, Doug Curry, Dwayne Wilder and evening host and emcee David Yokel. 

You know, as poetry goes ( in Rochester), last night’s reading and open mic was definitely the place to be.

David James Delaney        

The Genesee Reading Series: Catherine Faurot and Chen Chen 8/13/2019

Review by Jennifer Maloney

I’m so pleased I was able to attend the Genesee Reading Series! Once again, Wanda Schubmehl knocks it outta the park with her inspired pairing of these two poets. 

Catherine Faurot’s garden was in the room with us tonight, the texture of each bulb bumping beneath my fingertips, the curved and sensual blooms filling the night with scent. She drew the First Garden into the space as well, with a series of poems about Adam and Eve. The line “juncture is always at the place of fracture” juxtaposes the separation of the sexes with their longing to be joined: “the fumbling magnetism of what is cloven.” Her work was poignant and rich and completely satisfying. 

This is the first time I’ve heard Chen Chen read—what a delight! Nearly every line an utter surprise. What at first seems an outrageous observation is almost instantly transformed by some linguistic alchemy into resonant insight. The poems are often funny, often sweet. “For I Will Consider My Boyfriend Jeffrey” made me laugh out loud because Jeffrey thinks a cassowary looks “like a goddamn velociraptor,” then tear up because “he looks happy & doesn’t know I’m looking & that makes his happiness free.” Sometimes they will break your heart; still, the poet’s touch is light, easy, a conversation between friends. I didn’t know I was reeling from this work until I was driving home crying. That’s pretty darn amazing. I’m still processing. 

The Genesee Reading Series continues to be a must-see in the monthly rotation of readings around town, and in my humble opinion, it’s curator’s instincts about poetry, and poets, is a big piece of what has made this series so important to Rochester. Thank you, Wanda, for all your hard work in finding such powerful voices to share with us. Tonight’s event was another great success in what’s been a very long string of them. I look forward to what’s in store for us in the coming months.

Poetry, Pioneers, and #PaythePoets

Review by Rachael Ikins

At the Just Poets Presents! Fundraiser last Thursday evening (5/16/2019) at Nox the heat was on as poetry drove the rain away. Because the poetry road is a challenging one (aka nobody is waiting for the “movie version” of a chapbook,) it can be difficult to be adequately compensated for work. As well, Poets can tend to isolate in restricted areas and stay within their own tight-knit groups, cultivating ambition rather than risking the outreach to far away venues. It matters to meet in person, not just behind the computer or phone  screen on social media. What is possible to forget is that we are all in this together. Those clichés “strength in numbers” and “united we stand” exist because they are truths.

This lovely venue puts that truth to the test and walks the talk.

The Just Poets Presents! reading series at Nox (302 North Goodman Street in the Village Gate Square) was recently founded by Jennifer Maloney, with a mission to reach across geographic boundaries and ask regional poets to step out of their comfort zones and come to Rochester! Just Poets Presents! aims to amplify under-heard and marginalized voices from everywhere. A big part of this series is the idea of normalizing payment for Poets (and all artists), to educate people that artists do valuable work for which they should be compensated. Jennifer Maloney promotes the hashtag #PayThePoets. No one would consider it normal for a physician or an auto mechanic to practice their profession for “exposure” or “experience.” This series is dedicated to paying these professionals as one would pay any professional.

Featured readers at the fundraiser were accompanied by a fabulous improv musical performer. Trumpet player Mike Kaupa has toured North America, Europe and Japan as a leader and member of other groups, such as "ONIX" (Spain), "Equinox" (Lyon), "The Existing Reality" (U.S. and England) "The Institute for Creative Music" (U.S.) and "The Glenn Miller Orchestra" (U.S., Canada and Japan).  He recently performed at the "Remembering Marian" tribute to Marian McPartland concert at the 92nd St. YMCA in NYC. Kaupa is based in Rochester, New York where he maintains a busy schedule of teaching and performing.

Karen Faris is perhaps best known for her “Aliens like Us” series which she has performed at the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, and is a poet and a visual artist. On such a rainy Thursday her poem “Like The Rain,” which recently won Editor’s Choice in Golden Walkman Magazine’s “Dialogue” competition flowed in and filled the vessels of our ears. “Restrooms” provided some small comic relief. Karen is also the author of the artist’s book “The Strings of Motherhood” and the all-ages eco-adventure/fantasy, “Before There was Yonder.”

Just Poets’ Vice President, Bart White, was second of the featured four journeyers. His poem “Burning House,” kicked off the readings. It is an allegory about current immigration policies, the story of an impoverished and “undesirable” family who loses their home in a fire. “Asking the Measures” relates the story of a recent widow, overwhelmed with her new responsibilities. The narrator sees her through the thought-provoking lens of his own parents’ marriage.

Just Poets’ President, Jennifer Maloney wowed with her seductive style as her words intertwined with the melancholy sighs of the trumpet. “A Lion Once Again,” her #MeToo poem, transforms a lion to a pussy (cat) in wonderful satire. “Onomatapatterplay,” is a sexy piece that plays with sound, and “What It Costs,” which expresses the poet’s anger at the way artists are devalued in our society. Jennifer and Karen are frequent readers in Auburn at Word, Revisited hosted by Olive Trees and

Dionna Vereen’s work described her childhood self as a “peanut” in “& Wonder”, and she sang a few lines of “We Are Brave.” Her second piece was the classic Neruda Sonnet LXIX. This reporter first met her at ArtRage last fall where we both performed in Art in the Age of Trump and where I picked up a copy of her first audio collection CD. A force to be reckoned with, she is working with Clare Songbirds Publishing House to produce her first book of poetry.

The Auburn/Clare Songbirds Publishing contingent made good on the premise of this evening, traveling 3 hours out of their comfort zone to commingle with other poets in the greater community.

Rachael Ikins led the open mic portion, from “Eating the Sun,” the cookbook poem. “Everyone’s mother had one.”

Heidi Nightengale explained what she would say if she were the poet chosen to read at a presidential inauguration.

house sugarpunk spoke of “the gardens of heaven,” where “dandelions bloom.”

Matthew van Scott’s strong spoken-word poem included details on current events—fenced-in immigrant children, “huddled masses seeking haven.”

Charles “Seabe” Banks explained how he “kisses with two hands”.

Doug Curry stopped the clock with Sin & Soul jazz, Oscar Brown Jr., the auctioning of a woman.

Robin Reale Flanigan—“Play me, bow against string until the hairs shred”, concluded with a composition about miscarriage, “lost in the longing.”

After the readings, many books went home with new readers. Jennifer passed the jar throughout the fundraiser. Most attendees contributed to the coming trip resulting in about $200! Thanks to all who stepped up.

It is a fabulous idea to commingle poets from different areas, to reach out in person, not just on social media. It seems sometimes as if these tiny islands of geography are isolated, and this group of four poets vows to change that. Looking forward to meeting some of our poetry colleagues from the southern portion of NY state after their journey.

If you were unable to attend but wish to support this Just Poets Presents pioneer group on their outreach to Governor’s Island Poetry Festival, NYC in July, it is not too late. Please contact Jennifer Maloney at for information as to how to donate.

Rachael Ikins is a multiple Pushcart & CNY Book Award nominee, & 2018 Independent Book Award winner.  Author of 6 chapbooks, a full length collection, a fantasy & new mixed genre memoir, her work appears worldwide in journals and anthologies. She is also a prize- winning visual artist. Her work appears on book covers and illustrations and has been hung in galleries from CNY to Albany, NY and in Washington, D.C. A writing consultant, Ikins is a member of NLAPW and Associate Editor of Clare Songbirds Publishing House.

Robin Flanigan

Robin Flanigan

Dionna Vereen, Mike Kaupa

Dionna Vereen, Mike Kaupa

Jennifer Maloney

Jennifer Maloney

Karen Faris

Karen Faris

Genesee Reading Series & JP Open Mic October 2018

Back-to-back Karla Linn Merrifield. Tuesday she read with poet Bill Heyen at the Writers and Books Genesee Reading Series, and Wednesday night Merrifield was featured reader at the Just Poets open mic at Before Your Quiet Eyes book store. Both Merrifield and Heyen are Just Poets’ members.

Genesee Reading Series: Heyen, fluid and reflective, lead off (baseball season & all). It was a cozy read. No mic, Heyen in a chair up close as the attendees enjoyed his reach-backs grabbing bits of conversation he’s shared with famous poets. He read from his remarkable daily journal, not from the 30+ books he’s written. He focused on his one single-line couplet form poem “Coda: Diaspora Satori” :

I was a boy and then a young man / then an old man/ by which time/ Time arrived when I realized that when I slept/on my side/one leg drawn up/ I had myself become my own single line/ couplet form/ this realization/stunned me. After 30 or 40 books/thousands of poems/ I was home.

Many of Heyen’s poems aren’t as cryptic, yet he encourages “the poem” to remain somewhat mysterious even to the poet who penned it. He suggests; allow the poem to live on when the author does not. Heyen is to be heard as well as read.

Merrifield is prolific herself (13 books) and hundreds of published poems. She chose to read from her new book Psyche’s Scroll, her book- length poem in six sections. It is a journey story of sorts where protagonist “Ego” searches with the accompaniment of “Jojo” the “id” accompanied by “Superego(s).” Complex and near stream of consciousness, Merrifield delivers on “How was Universe formed”; “Are black holes amorphous? …/ Can a rainbow name its seven colors? / Do matter, antimatter, dark matter matter/…What’s the matter with me? No matter…” 

Just Poets Open Mic: Featured reader Merrifield delivered poems from her works in an easy informal read: poems about moon jellies (jellyfish), travels; “Crossing Hecate Strait” (British Colombia) a powerful lament of the Haida (tribe) and their encounter with the European culture; poems on the power of mist; and a brush of poems erotica; “Paramour” with lines like; “Last night I dreamed I was a John Sloan nude…”

Merrifield was on. Longtime friends, one can hear a touch of Heyen in her work. 
The Open Mic portion was really good as well. Here’s who read: David Michael Nixon, Joel Lesses, Robert McDonough, Maril Nowak, Elizabeth ‘Dream” Engert, Mary Hood, Lisa Nichols, Roy Bent, Charles “SeaBe” Banks, Richard Robbins, David Delaney, Jennifer Maloney, Gracen Lynch, Bart White, George Haig and JP open mic host, David Yockel. 
Poetry lives.

Review by David Delaney

Poetry Reading: Michael Jennings & Bruce Bennett


Professor and poet Robert Darling of Keuka College has assembled a fine reading series at this small college on the shores of Keuka Lake, midway between Penn Yan and Branchport. On September 18, he hosted poet Sean Dougherty.

The evening of October 2, poet-memoirist Michael Jennings of Otisco and Professor Emeritus Bruce Bennett from Wells College in Aurora, a satirist-poet in the tradition of Jonathan Swift, read from their work.  Both have had long careers in writing, teaching, publishing and presenting their work. The presentation was particularly noteworthy during this reading; each spoke well and did justice to his work. An added interesting feature of this reading was work from their most recent books; each book was about the poet’s relationship to “The West.”

Jennings read first, after mention of his East Texas roots, from Summoning the Outlaws (Kelsay Press, 2018). He leaned forward on the lectern, comfortable with the poems, the audience and himself. Poems about his youth and family in East Texas were particularly moving. Gritty, not in some stylistic way, but in lived experience. He admitted that he’d come to this book “after a dry spell,” encouraged by his wife, who was present, to look back. I am happy to report there was no nostalgia. Jennings cannot do other than report, not Joe Friday harsh, but still the facts, ma’am. I was immensely impressed by what he has done with this book. He was obviously moved during the reading, and I was convinced too.

Bruce Bennett followed with poems from A Man Rode into Town (Foothills Publishing, 2018). His presentation was an effective counterpoint to Jennings’. His book, which he read entirely from, comes across as a single long poem on the American heroic figure of the Lone Gunman whose character has been the subject of so many stories, novels and films. Bennett paused to sing the signature tune from High Noon.  Poet Ed Dorn is one of few writers to do as much with “Gunslinger.”  Bennett’s style was drier, professorial, but still eloquent. His subject matter was the stereotype, though as a satirical poet his viewpoint and language (rhymed) often turned on new ways of seeing the old. Many of the poems, told straightforwardly, are followed by a short moral, delivered by the author in another (ironic) voice.  

So we are a long way from Zane Gray with both these poets, perhaps closer to the early “Westerns” written by Elmore Leonard, and certainly directly related to the morally complex “shoot-em ups” of the spaghetti Western and the slice-em ups of Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo. All stereotypes deserve such an airing.

Review by Steve Lewandowski

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October 6 2018 Just Poets Retreat

Warmed by a fire and friends, Just Poets hosted another terrific day this weekend with Mother Nature at Writers and Books‘ Gell Center, (Naples/Bristol) NY. 

The full-day retreat featured a truly fascinating overview of early (dare I say ancient) Asian poetry expertly presented by Just Poet member Roy Hartwell Bent. Bent took us not only on a travelogue tour of the Beijing Forbidden City, but also underscored his topic with a grasp of the language and history well enough to spellbind with his nuanced perceptions he has gathered including visiting China. If you know Roy Bent you know he comes prepared. No exception here – slide shows, including his photos of poet Li Bai’s (701 – 762 a.d. ) work displayed on scroll, worksheets, art, books, handouts all leading the poets into a try at translation, and writing exercises (haiku, Hokku…). Freakin’ fascinating.

Almost too much? It should be at least a four session class at Writers and Books. 
All that and a pot luck lunch with poets, a warm breeze from Naples Valley and a meaningful read-around at the end of the day. Wow. Or, perhaps better said:

Thanks to all who shared and attended this year’s Just Poets retreat. Next year – don’t miss it.

Review by David Delaney

Review: Poetry at the Wood Library, Canandaigua

On Sunday, June 17, 2018, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the company of Just Poets member Scott W. Williams and friend of Just Poets Stephen Lewandowski at their poetry reading at the Wood Library in Canandaigua, NY. Scott’s friend Victoria Hunter organized the event which included an open mic. Victoria and Scott are old friends from the Rochester Folk Art Guild of Middlesex, NY, and several audience members who came to show their support were also associated with the Guild. Many poets and eager listeners were in attendance as well; Scott and Stephen enjoyed a full house!

Stephen Lewandowski read first. What impressed me initially was how funny many of his poems were; little jewels of brevity with an ironic punch at the end, the kind of work that makes me pause a beat and think, “Wait. What did he just say?”—and burst into laughter. That’s a pretty fun way to spend an afternoon, guys.

A departure from this tone occurred with his “Beautiful Dreamer,” dedicated to his Aunt Mary Jane Force, who passed away ten years ago. The poem recalls Mary Jane telling the narrator about a dream she keeps having about her long-dead horse, Tanager. Tanager (nicknamed Tanyer) has come to talk to her in her dream, and when the narrator asks his aunt what the horse says, her response is so simple and heart-wrenching it literally made me gasp. She laughs, and tells him:

Tanyer said,
‘Now we are old
and no more racing,
I can come home with you.
Now we can talk’.

Smack, right in the kisser.

There were really four discrete sets of poetry last Sunday, with open mics between the featured readers and at the end. I won’t list everyone who read in the open mics since I’m certain to forget someone, but I would like to highlight Just Poets treasure, Almeta Whitis, who read her inspiring poem “Womenspeace,” a work commissioned by the City of Rochester in 1992 as a “toast to the future,” and to honor Wilma Mankiller, the first female elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Almeta sang and read her powerful piece, then shared with us the story of it’s creation—she says these words, this prayer, was very much given by Spirit.

Scott began with a poem about exactly how long he was going to read. He assured us it was going to be a very long time. He let us know he was going to read for so long we “would think we were married and ask for a divorce.” So long that we would “forget and remember and forget and remember and forget and remember...” in other words, settle in, friends. It’s gonna be a WHILE.

But it was not to be—the time flew! A few of my favorites: a scary/funny piece from A Flash of Dark, Vol. 1, the anthology of speculative flash fiction and poetry he edited earlier this year (and which I encourage everyone reading this review to purchase and read—it’s nothing short of FANTASTIC—see what I did there, wink-wink—but I mean it!), a truly harrowing piece about a frightening episode observed from a car window between a woman and her dog, and his last piece, a tribute to his late father, who loved watching trains with Scott, asking, “what’s coming on track one? What’s coming on track two?”, and the final, bittersweet answer to that query. What a way to end Father’s Day afternoon!

I’m gonna go ahead and break my own rule here and mention one other open mic performance—one that wasn’t poetry. Scott’s daughter, Rebekah A. Williams, treated the audience to two songs, both beautifully rendered; “The Heartbeat Song” has haunted since. Singing in the Tuscarora language, Rebekah had us clapping along with her: beat-BEAT, beat-BEAT, providing the steady tempo, as her lovely, poignant melody filled the room. To me, this song did very directly what I always hope poetry will do—connect me, connect US, to our own humanity. To the rhythm of our hearts. To the music of our souls.

This was a special afternoon. I’m so glad I was there!

Review by Jennifer Maloney

June Open Mic: Featuring Laura Klinkon

Last night’s Just Poets featured reader, Laura Klinkon, did what few poets do with such an opportunity, she stayed completely from the dark side (sort of). Klinkon, quiet, crafty and so, so subtle, entertained the full-house audience of poets, patrons and friends at Ken Kelbaugh’s “Before Your Quiet Eyes” bookstore. So soft spoken herself, yet, her poems brought loud laughter and smile-wide surprise as she read pieces from her three published works. Her poem, “Salt Potato” a clear peak at Klinkon’s style: keen observations, comparisons (shapes and names of kindred potatoes) with some tongue and cheek, a whisper of bite, make her work well worth hearing and reading. In another set of poems about flies, yes flies, her lines speak about the nuance of them noting and charting each year, “… They are different, these flies from 2014.” Rich and intriguing she plays with object and idea. Or from her book “Looking Askance” the poem “I Liked You Before” referencing the change caused by a colonoscopy, etc --funny stuff and insightful (sorry).

“I offer no gravitas; most of my work here tonight is silly and satirical,” so says Klinkon. Satirical yes. Silly? Not so much. Klinkon, born in Sicily, masters level educated in Pittsburgh with work credentials that include the French Embassy and the Library of Congress, she is as seemingly unassuming as her poetry. But to assume there isn’t a keen eye on everything around is to mistake the strength of Klinkon.

Find Laura's work on Amazon: Looking Askance, Kitchen Abrasives, and Trying to Find You

The Open Mic, hosted by David Yockel was strong with a variety of good poets (15) bringing new and old to the metal music stand (podium). Bob McDonough with Maril Nowak and Bart White shared the reading of McDonough’s poem about the first (and only) death in major league baseball (1920); “Ray Chapman, HBP” (hit by pitch). David Michael Nixon, Colleen Powderly, Jennifer Maloney, Roy Bent, Mitch Valente, Bill Pruitt, Michelle Brown, Gracen Lynch, Dwain Wilder, Ellie, Charles Banks, Bart White, David Delaney, and host David Yockel rounded out the field. Really strong stuff. If I were looking for poetry I’d be heading where this group takes nourishment. Stop by in July (7:00 pm the 11th). Bring a poem. August’s JP featured reader: William Pruitt.

Review By David Delaney

Le Mot Juste 2018 on the STORE

Le Mot Juste 2018 is now available.

MEMBERS can pick up their free copy at any Just Poets event. For members who have expressed a preference, your copy will be mailed to you. Additional copies are available to MEMBERS for $8.00 at Just Poets events.

The STORE provides the ability to buy additional copies to be shipped to you, whether you are Member  or Non-Member. STORE pricing includes Shipping & Handling.

If you have never been a member, use our special price to join for July 2018-June 2019, and receive a copy of LMJ 2018 now, at the Member price, as well as receive your free Member copy of LMJ 2019 when available next year.

Cover Photo Courtesy of Kent Divers, CR Kent Divers Photography

April Open Mic: David Purdy

Last night’s Featured Reader David Purdy claims his work is “eclectic.” Perhaps. But there is definitely a romantic thread well woven deep through his work. In one of his untitled poems, he writes “… she calls me sunshine, I’m more like the moon’s dark side… lucky me she has enough for two.” Purdy wrote lovingly, sensually about his fountain pen; his poem “Rock Doves”, witty and caring, compares village life of these birds to city dweller rock doves, concentrating with keen eye on the flight and beauty of one female rock dove “…shy, keen of foot.” In his other poems Purdy catches metaphorical glimpses of nature and weather, his trip to Ireland, and touching tribute to his sister “My Sister Alice” and another dedicated to his daughter Alice. Rhymes, internal and end, metered, Purdy offered a good solid read.

The Open Mic portion brought out some fine work as well: Frank Judge’s “Will You Write Me a Poem”; Buffalo poet Dr. Scott Williams read his clever and meaningful haiku and senryu; Maril Nowak read a fun “golden shovel” poem; Robert McDonough read a beauty: “My Mother Changing My Father’s Dressing”; Dr. Phillip Sterling, professor and well published poet in the area giving readings at local universities, read from his new book And Then Snow; Jennifer Maloney moved the audience with her insightful poems “Boys” and “Maplewood”; Bill Pruitt held the group with his call-to-action bellwether poem warning all to get involved politically. Just Poets President Bart White wrapped up the open mic and evening reading a poem, “Gravity” from MJ Iuppa’s newest book; The Thirst. White finished by reading “History Lesson” from JP member Leah Zazulyer’s book, Alone as a Stone.

Next Month, May 9th, Just Poets featured reader; Mary Hood. Thanks to Ken Kelbaugh and his bookstore Before Your Quiet Eyes for the great hospitality.

Review by David Delaney

January Open Mic: Featured Poet Lisa Metzger

Only four poems. Imagine that. January’s featured reader and new Just Poet, Lisa Metzger, made it short and bittersweet. Metzger, a writing instructor at RIT, and former Adirondack Wilderness guide, covered a lot of hard territory in a very short time. Her first poem, about time with her grandmother in North Carolina Grannie’s Grapevine, held lessons learned as a child. The next poem, about the death of a friend on Whiteface Mountain, delicately blended winter scenery into the weight of the tragedy. Her final poems, The Knot about post-divorce, and Dis-ease, the need to end a difficult friendship, cut grit hard. All were set up and delivered well; an honest read.

Open mic was exceptional as well. There were so many poets (18) anxious to read, JP host David Yockel had to enforce the “three minute” rule. And Ken Kelbaugh owner of Before Your Quiet Eyes bookstore needed to set up another row or two of seats. Good stuff poured forth. Last night’s poets who read were: Laura Klinkon, Robert McDonough, Maril Nowak, Jere Fletcher, Frank Judge, Jim Jordan, Bill Pruitt, David Delaney, Kevin Minh, Gracen Lynch, Roy Bent, David Purdy, Jennifer Maloney, Reily Hirst, David Michael Nixon, Bart White, Charles “CB” Banks, and David Yockel.

Many outstanding poems; just a note on a few; Jere Fletcher’s Honor Them a poignant piece on the sacrifice of war; Bill Pruitt’s The Names of Algae an assessment of our world and need for action by those who have the means to act; Gracen Lynch’s original piece about corners “eight billion corners in this round world,” Reily Hirst’s I Will Never be the Same = a smart rock-and-river metaphor about love. And CB’s Murder of Crows about justice, cleverly cloaked in feather. 

A good night for poetry and good night for Just Poets.


Holiday Reader's Theater

Just Poets’ first Readers Theater was crisp as a Dickens Duck.  Staged in the Rochester Academy of Medicine's Victorian ambiance of ornate mahogany, lovely fireplace, and classic wall-to-ceiling bookcases, every seat held laughter, silence, and riveting attention to the performers (Kitty Jospé, Almeta Whitis, Craig Schantz, Bart White, Roy Bent,  R. Emmett Michie), and the event’s creator/ producer/director: Celeste Schantz. Poetry, stories, song, it had it all.

Terrific. So glad we came,” said Jim Dangler. Dangler’s sentiment was echoed throughout the beautiful hall where these performers brought perhaps a new tradition to not only Just Poets, but Rochester, as well. The grand piano warmed the air in elegant holiday/classical note (thank you Willie Ellebee and Kitty Jospé).  And the table of treats at intermission, tastefully displayed, would have made Tiny Tim’s eyes sparkle.

Who could have asked for more when several Just Poet members came out of the audience of nearly 60 to read delightful and poignant “Letters to Santa” from then to now.

Toss in a raffle, $300 raised for the Open Door Mission, and the finale: the audience joining together singing Auld Lang Syne,  it was as warm and moving as Bob Cratchit’s crackling Christmas hearth.

From soup to nuts, well done.

Happy Holidays,

David Delaney

October 11th: Featured Poet Charles "SeaBe" Banks & Open Mic

Charles "SeaBe" Banks

Charles "SeaBe" Banks

Charles (aka “SeaBe”) Banks performance was also a JP book launch for his SeaBe: My First Poetry Book, Inner Child Press (2014). Bravo, Charles! Your poems not only capture the contemporary urban voice, but readers will hear your deep basso reading voice as they enjoy this wonderful chapbook.

He led off with a new poem Life Crosses a Dangerous Road, where “time heals, but it also kills.” Then he asked the audience to choose from four categories: Love, Fun, Social Ills, or Death. The audience chose Fun.

The response was an hilarious ode to fast food, Burgers and Fries, from his chapbook: “I’ll be Burger King’s Queen / just slip me … some onion rings.” And what will it take to make his girl “squeal / call me her Big Daddy”? (Hint: something from McDonald’s that rhymes with “squeal” and is said to be “happy”) After large applause, the audience again chose Fun.

Banks treated us to Happy Belated Goose Day. No, really, he assured us Goose Day is September 30th. Well, who knew? “I goose on Facebook. / Pokes are not polite.” He’s a fine comic, and the audience really gave it up for him. Then someone called for Social Ills.

He dressed us in DeaD- Man’s Clothes, lost among the hopeless homeless, stressing the “Heavy deaDness / No place to be living …” in a jazz poem worthy of comparison with some of Langston Hughes’. Banks named Hughes as one of his poetry mentors. Listen: “Livin’ in Dead Man sleeves / Strapped up belief / Lifeless Belt pulled tight …” Can you hear a bit of Hughes? The audience next chose Love.

Another new poem, Rare Love, manifested passion as “a hunger for another / rarely goes away.” Hear it and fall in love all over again. Next, the audience picked Social Ills.

Way Ward BounD is a kind of love poem to the homeless: “I live on the Edge the cut the corner the curb ….. where stePPs serve as … / Tables and Chairs,” and other images, especially hunger, that make homelessness too painful to ignore.  By now you've noticed Banks’ eccentric capitalization and punctuation, reminiscent of Russell Atkins, Bob McDonough’s Cleveland composer/poet friend Bob presented to our group last year.  Then the audience opted for Fun.

PUMPkin BuTT pie Sweet Potatoe Bootie gave a recipe that came with “a warning / readings / careful if you taste it it cums alive / it’s attracted to BiGG Ole BUTTS / and yours is the right size …..” It's a Thanksgiving poem from hell,  that could have come from Rice, Gorey, or Poe but is Banks’ own little demonic piece. It is also included in SeaBe, his chapbook.

SeaBe closed with a new Love poem. In Poets, who “travel light,” he credits Leonard Cohen and Billie Holliday for that concept, citing poets “with their watchful eyes, leaking hearts …

Given Banks’ theatrical delivery and honest words, don’t hesitate to buy his book, to attend his readings, or to regard him as an emerging poet among contemporary greats. To a relatively new JP member, “Welcome Charles, and keep ‘em cOMinG!”

David Delaney

August featured poet Jennifer Maloney & open mic

Just Poets welcomed first-year member Jennifer Maloney as the featured reader for our second Wednesday of the month reading at Before Your Quiet Eyes, Ken Kelbaugh’s fine bookstore on Monroe Avenue.

Maloney said the poems she read follow a twenty-year hiatus from writing when poverty, addiction, and mental and physical abuse dominated her life. Emphasizing survival, Maloney credits the gift of friends and community for her return to poetry, as well as advice from Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoting Polonius: “To thine own self be true.”

From her first poem, Fight Song, we realized the ambiguity of flight and fight, from “I’m loose, light, and ready,” then “shit peppered with love … maybe she’s dying of love,” to “I watch him silently planning his next drunk.” The flight soon becomes a fight for survival in Women’s Meeting, in which the poem’s voice rose “high, high, high … then dropped back down … like a shovelful of graveyard dirt.” In The Floor a child’s voice says “I can’t explain the taste of the floor,” as the older-wiser voice reflects, “Children believe … they try to make sense.” The adult voice of Stars and Stripes wants her flag freed from the insanity in Washington today: “We are too old for tears,” and at night we have the stars as window blinds “stripe the floor with moonlight.”

Next Maloney lightened the atmosphere with several pet poems. Sammy, a dog, “stretches one leg back, arabesque,” as if he were a ballet dancer, and provides comfort: “Sammy has faith in us, faith in himself.” The man who hates his woman’s cats, The Man Who Loved Cats Dancing, wields the power of the tuna can while calling them filthy names and screaming at them to “use the scratching post!” Indeed, “they listen to him.” And for every pet-lover, Thou Good and Faithful dog who died thirty-plus years ago is remembered for “the white, muddy feathers of his underbelly.” He is “warm, wet and stinking … is there anything more than this?

Maloney closed with four powerful pieces. Miss September finds a California sugar-daddy in “the place where honeypot meets honey trap.” A typical take on an air-headed beauty? No, Miss September “isn’t stupid … Miss October isn’t 18.How Things End begins at home where “the lights went off.” A couple living in their car eats “the last of the bananas,” thinking “we could drive home, but there’s nothing there. … At least the car has blankets.” In Of Miracles Tatiana is a short young black woman mistaken by police for a tall black male suspect. She is beaten by the Bakersfield PD and bitten by their dog. She “made the mistake of thinking she was an American citizen.” Maloney’s observation: “The real crime is not driving while Black … but breathing while Black.” Like Maloney, Tatiana is a survivor.

Closing out, The Poet’s Lament poked fun at all of us when we take ourselves too seriously: “Do you know who was better, Bukowski or Ginsberg?” Maloney’s advice is learn to “shut the hell up … simply let someone else speak. … After all, we are just poets.”

Or was it Just Poets?! The room was rapt and packed. A dozen readers offered their work at the open mic. The Coffee Connection, a non-profit supporting women in recovery, provided regular, decaf, and decadent cookies. Thanks again to Ken for providing the space in which such magic happens.

Maril Nowak

Open Mic

Genesee Reading Series: Colleen Powderly & Kristen Gentry

Two women: one an author of short stories, one a poet; years separating their perspective on life; an interesting and enlightening evening at Writers & Books—Genesee Reading Series last night (August 8th).

Poet Colleen Powderly came with that podium ease that so entices the audience to engage, laugh and make that “hmmm”sound when a line hits its target (poets do that). It was a pleasure to travel through her love affairs, her ekphrastic poems based on a Vincent Van Gogh day calendar, and her strong Ten Penny (nail) poem about returning to Ireland with her aging father. Powderly’s poems are clear, eagle eyed, honest, and tell a story. They also work because there is craft in her work. But it is her ability to see “new”: in relationships; My Lovers’ Hips sees the daylight; “I watched light grow into the trees outside…” and on Van Gogh’s paintings of women working in the field; “He began to ‘see’ while painting them...” ; this is where one finds the word 'profound.' 

Short story writer Kristen Gentry, Associate English Professor at SUNY Geneseo, read Mama Said the lead piece in her upcoming collection of linked stories. Mama Said looks inside the strain of daughters and mothers tied to addiction. Gentry read with animation and insight about that egg-shell walk around parental addiction; the mother “touching her arm to see if she is alive,” the daughter“of wishing she could run her mother over with the car, not to die, but to let her know how mad she was…” set that fear and anger in good passage.  Her comeback- overture line Gentry brought throughout the story was “you can’t fix her.”  But Gentry’s protagonist and story find a fixing strength and a worthy conclusion.    

A good reading last night.

David Delaney

July Open Mic: Le Mot Juste 2017 Edition

On the way out of the Before Your Quiet Eyes bookstore that held JP’s (Just Poets) “Open Mic Night,” last night (7/12/2017), a first-time attendee (Mike) turned and said,” I am impressed; I just heard a lot of good poetry….” Normally JP hosts a featured reader each month, but last night most of the poems came from JP’s 2017 anthology Le Mot Juste.

Kitty Jospé, this year’s LMJ editor, led the read around by many of the JP members in attendance. The annual publication contains the work of more than 60 poets, all ages, all thoughts – all good. It makes one think about the importance of poetry, and also makes one stop to thank the founders who started the Just Poets group: Donna Marbach, Claudia Stanek, Lorrie Divers and Harold Dill. There was an easy and solid sense of unity last night because these and other poets, who more than a decade ago, took the time and effort to put this idea into reality. The result has been a growing and welcoming poetry group that now reaches near 90 in members and reaches into the Greater Rochester community bringing the power of words where it does and will do its magic. 

After the LMJ read around, the Open Mic brought some new work to the audience: Maril Nowak read her poem, The Success of Age; Gene Stelzig read his poem, All Our Ships Have Sailed; David Purdy read a written-that-morning piece on overlooking the Erie Canal, and another generated from his and poet Monica Beck’s June trip to Ireland entitled The Green That Grows Upon the Orange. Monica read a Yeats classic When You Are Old. Jere Fletcher read his poem, Morning Glory; Jen Hu read an as-of-last-night untitled poem; Charles Banks read his poem, The Skeptic, Kitty Jospé’ her poem, Hamlet’s Reply to Recipes Based on Jell-O. Several attendees read additional LMJ poems for poets who did not attend. 

Next Month’s Open Mic (August 9) features Jennifer Maloney.

David Delaney

Just Poets Annual Picnic & Le Mot Juste 2017

On Saturday, June 3rd, Just Poets held its annual picnic. This event always gives JP members a chance to catch up with each other as well as celebrate the publication of our yearly anthology Le Mot Juste

The 13th edition of  Le Mot Juste,  dedicated to our good friends Michael & Carolyn Czarnecki of FootHills Publishing. Celebrating 30 years of publishing, Michael & Carolyn have hand-made every LMJ edition.

The 13th edition of Le Mot Juste, dedicated to our good friends Michael & Carolyn Czarnecki of FootHills Publishing. Celebrating 30 years of publishing, Michael & Carolyn have hand-made every LMJ edition.

This year's LMJ editor, Kitty Jospe, shared this write-up of our big day:

"A hearty thank you to Karla Linn Merrifield who hosted the Just Poets annual picnic for the third year in a row.  In addition to a feast of delicious foods, we had a visual feast of poetry, starting with a couch covered by books generously donated by Bill Heyen. As he modestly said, it’s because his publishers are going out of business. Karla suggested that people wanting to match his generosity make a $5 donation to Just Poets.  I believe she meant in particular for the hardcover copy of Hiroshima Suite with the stunning cover illustration by DeLoss McGraw, The Fish, but certainly, there were so many other books to choose from.

Other poets brought works as well--the top drawer of a chest was open to disclose titles.  Facing the couch was a delightful photo display Bart White put up of members and their activities.

After we ate, Bart gave a lovely overview of all the activities of Just Poets and all the people who worked behind the scenes to create wonderful programs and community connections.  He read a poem by Maril Nowak as an example of the fine work produced in JP meetings."                      

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
Mid-afternoon waves rising to collapse
waves jazzing the pebbled shore
waves in a shimmy of sunlight
waves in a rupture of the bag
of diamonds on the pier.

It’s like this:
When you watch the water dance
you have to dance along.
When you watch the water toss
its treasure you have to grab for it.
When you watch the water’s weave
you will wear that new coat home.

"After Bart's brief but pointed year-in-review, we had a fantastic read-around where everyone shared a poem of their own. Some read from this year's Le Mot Juste, others recited new material or old favorites.

It was a great day, a beautiful display of exactly what this group has to offer. As Karla, our gracious host, remarked at the conclusion of the day: "Damn, we're good." I could not possibly agree more."